9 May 2019

Somewhere in Nocturnal China

Even though our main goal in our first visit to China was to do some trekking in the mountains and explore 2 National Parks we had heard so much about (Zhangjiajie and Tianmensan National Parks, as you can see in the previous post here), we also found some time to walk around the cities where we stayed once the night had fallen and the street lamps (ubiquitous in this country wherever you go, as if it were Christmas every night of the year) had been lit. The same way a candle only breaths its most endearing power in the darkness, places that seemed totally unremarkable to us in our busy commute from hotel to station in the morning or early evening, became unique, alluring and photogenic surrounded by neon lights and lanterns.

Undisturbed Love, GX80 + Panasonic Leica 15mm
Taiping Street I, GX80 + Panasonic Leica 15mm
Taiping Street II, GX80 + Panasonic Leica 15mm
Taiping Street III, GX80 + Panasonic Leica 15mm
The Seller I, GX80 + Lumix G X Vario 12-35mm
The Seller II, GX80 + Lumix G X Vario 12-35mm
Handiwork, GX80 + Panasonic Leica 15mm
We were always tired at the end of a day full of walking with a backpack, but it was a completely rewarding experience to wander around the city streets at night, since the colors, views and particularly the smells were completely different from those of the day, showing a new face that we would have missed if we had decided to simply sleep to recover energy for the following day's excursion. It's definitely worth giving night-China a chance, for most of its most peculiar tastes and flavors (of all sorts) can only be experienced then. And don't fear, night is not a synonym of obscurity in this country, for the lights will accompany you wherever you go lighting up the atmosphere (sometimes a tiny bit too much for my taste) with multiple and unexpected hues.

Yellow Dragon Cave, GX80 + Panasonic Leica 15mm
The Lantern and the Bridge, GX80 + Panasonic Leica 15mm
Lantern Tree, GX80 + Lumix G X Vario 12-35mm
The Boats, GX80 + Panasonic Leica 15mm
Reflections in Fenghuang I, GX80 + Panasonic Leica 15mm
Reflections in Fenghuang II, GX80 + Lumix G X Vario 12-35mm
The Crossing, GX80 + Lumix G X Vario 12-35mm

30 Apr 2019

Somewhere in Diurnal China

I've been living a mere 1000 km from China for almost 9 years now, yet for one reason or another, and despite being a frequent traveller all around South East and East Asia, I never took the chance to explore any of the interesting places that the continental part of that country offer. That long delay came to an end, however, a month ago, when I told myself that it was about time to see first hand some of the landmarks of the Asian giant that had always been so close at hand, and during my Songkran holidays in Thailand (or Easter holidays for those back home in Spain), I finally boarded a plane due there. I would not be visiting any big city such as Beijing or Shanghai upon my first incursion in the country, however, for I'm much more interested in nature than metropolis, so the destination was set in one of China's most iconic and beloved National Parks: Tianmenshan Mountain.

Ocres in April, GX80 + Lumix G X Vario 12-35mm
The Mist, GX80 + Lumix G X Vario 12-35mm
A flower for the Queen, GX80 + Lumix G X Vario 12-35mm
The Observatory, GX80 + Lumix G X Vario 12-35mm
The Crevice, GX80 + Lumix G X Vario 12-35mm
Rocks and Fog, GX80 + Lumix G X Vario 12-35mm
Not Only Rocks, GX80 + Lumix G X Vario 12-35mm
Bir's Eye, GX80 + Lumix G X Vario 12-35mm
Her Majesty I, GX80 + Lumix G X Vario 12-35mm
Her Majesty II, GX80 + Lumix G X Vario 12-35mm
But that was not the only National Park we visited  during our stay, for not far from it there is another hotspot for nature lovers, made internationally known by the movie Avatar: Zhangjiajie National Forest Park. The scenery was totally different from that of Tianmenshan despite being just an hour away, and the contrast between both was surprising and refreshing to us, granting us the chance to enjoy such diverse landscapes with just a short ride. Zhangjiajie Park can be explored in two areas, one of which will see you trekking along the trails build atop the rocks in the upper side, as if you were walking among the clouds on top of pointy and naked sticks of miraculously erect stone.

Needles I, GX80 + Lumix G X Vario 12-35mm
Needles II, GX80 + Lumix G X Vario 12-35mm
Needles III, GX80 + Lumix G X Vario 12-35mm
Needles IV, GX80 + Lumix G X Vario 12-35mm
Panorama of Zhangjiajie National Forest Park, GX80 + Lumix G X Vario 12-35mm
The second area is, as one would expect, the lower side, walking along winding paths around the feet of those same rock formations, that present a totally different view from this perspective, atmosphere that was, besides, enhanced by the rainy and misty weather that accompanied us throughout our trek down there.

Misty morning, GX80 + Lumix G X Vario 12-35mm
The Stream, GX80 + Lumix G X Vario 12-35mm
At Home, GX80 + Lumix G X Vario 12-35mm
We were not disappointed by the majestic views and the jaw-dropping scenery of the mountains we had seen during our 3 days, for they were wonderful beyond praise. The weather was also very enjoyable, so the whole experience was a blast. A couple of warnings for Western tourists, however, for I was shocked by 2 facts that, being European, I was not prepared to face while trekking in nature, one being the noisy behavior of the hordes of local tourists that populate every trail of the parks (screaming from one viewpoint on top of a mountain so that the tourists hundreds of meters away atop another peak can hear you and yell in return seems to be common trade) and the "taming" of nature for tourism-sake (something that in my home country, unfortunately, also happened decades past along the cost, but that, as of now, hasn't happened in mountainous areas as far as I'm aware, for we like maintaining nature as pristine and unspoiled as possible), so be ready to find concrete trails, bridges, elevators, toilets and even markets in the most remote and unexpected places to please the hordes of tourist that visit every park. Nature at the service of people, so to speak.

On the Fringes of the Yellow Dragon Cave, GX80 + Panasonic Leica 15mm
Fenghuang, GX80 + Lumix G X Vario 12-35mm
Selfie risks, GX80 + Lumix G X Vario 12-35mm
The Pathway, GX80 + Lumix G X Vario 12-35mm
Winding Road, GX80 + Lumix G X Vario 12-35mm
Being such an overpopulated country, it's hard to avoid human crowds wherever you go, and the same can be said for the pictures, chances are high that they will be dotted with human presence. There is no point in fighting it, so the best one can do is to incorporate the people and the buildings into the images (for they are, in the end, part of the landscape as much as the mountains and the trees) and try to blend in the country as best as one can. Each country has its idiosyncrasies, and a tourist, from my point of view, should never judge or much less blame what locals do while being abroad; it's hard to get rid of one's cultural and social prejudices, but we have to remember that we are visiting their own country, after all, and, if anything, we are the "intruders" there, so to speak, so it's wise always to keep a low profile and do as Romans do, as the saying goes. In conclusion, our first incursion in China was a very exciting and memorable experience, and all we could think about upon our return to Thailand was that most likely it won't take another 9 years to visit it again.

Young Mao, GX80 + Lumix G X Vario 12-35mm
The Gang, GX80 + Lumix G X Vario 12-35mm
After the Rain, GX80 + Lumix G X Vario 12-35mm